Thursday, 7 October 2010

IFA set to gag Northern Ireland supporters' protest -EXCLUSIVE

The Irish Football Association (IFA) is set to deploy a UEFA anti-racism directive in order to gag supporters protests, at Fridays international clash between Northern Ireland and Italy at Windsor Park.

Fans had planned to display banners, highlighting what they believe amounts to a systematic plunder of the Associations underage players by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), which governs the game in the Republic of Ireland. Earlier this year the IFA took the FAI to court, in an attempt to stop the Republic picking players from Northern Ireland.

The Court of Arbitration for Support (CAS) ruled in the FAIs favour, finding that FIFA regulations allow the Republic of Ireland to continue selecting players from Northern Ireland; including players who have already played for one of the IFAs underage teams. It did however acknowledge that the existing situation represents an unfair one way street which disadvantages the IFA.

Northern Ireland supporters connected to the successful website Our Wee Country channelled their frustration into two banners protesting at the FAIs selection policy. One warned the association to stop interfering with our kids and another accused the southern body of creating Football Apartheid in Ireland.

The pro-IFA banners were displayed without controversy during Northern Irelands European Championship qualifier in Slovenia, which the team won, but the association has indicated that they will not be welcome at Windsor Park on Friday.

The IFA cites a drive by UEFA, the body charged with running football in Europe, to banish racist displays from football stadia. But the associations spokesman acknowledges that the banners are not an issue in terms of racism and that UEFA has not expressed any concern over their content.

The supporter who commissioned the banners, travelled from Mumbai in India in order to attend matches in Montenegro and Slovenia. He emphasises that the banners are intended solely as commentary on the FAIs predatory selection policy and do not refer to any other institution in Ireland.

He also believes that the IFA is curtailing fans freedom of speech in order to protect lucrative commercial interests. The Northern Ireland team will take part in an inaugural Celtic Cup tournament, hosted by the FAI in Dublin next year.

It is an allegation which Geoff Wilson of the IFA denies.

The fans have a right to free speech but we are just trying to do whats right for football in Northern Ireland. We want the team and the fans to remain focussed on beating Italy.


O'Neill said...

The "Football Apartheid in Ireland" one I fully support, the "interfering with kids" I think is inappropriate and could backfire.

But neither are racist, sectarian or against UEFA's rules so the IFA (once again) are bending over to the FAI shower instead of giving them the almighty "F/Off" they deserve.

beano said...

Sounds like an opportunity for an online protest. Have the slogans flying found Facebook / Twitter and see if it gets any coverage?

beano said...

Sounds like an opportunity for an online protest. Have the slogans flying found Facebook / Twitter and see if it gets any coverage?

slug said...

Does the racism argument make legal sense? Are ROI people a different race from NI ones in the relevant legislation? I didn't think so, what is the difference between "white Irish" and "White British" in racial terms? (I often ticked both when asked).

Anonymous said...

the "interfering with kids" I think is inappropriate and could backfire.

It's what's known as a dog-whistle. Trouble is that more than the Norn Iron hardcore can hear it.

O'Neill said...


I am sure it's going to get coverage. The IFA, once again, are in danger of making themselves look publicly v stupid and whenever that happens the hacks at the Bellylaugh, just to name one local media outlet, are never that far away. Especially when they've been handed the story on the plate.

Online protests re the freedom of speech issue, sure, we should try to get the wheels moving on that.

But the core issue here, surely is to see how we can do as much damage as possible to the main villains of this piece, the FAI and their sectarian selection policy with regards players from NI. The fifth-rate tournament they're hosting next year would be the obvious target and the fact that our visit is the only one that's likely to generate any kind of interest could be our trump card. I'm sure something will be organised; bit of longer-term planning needed on that one and probably best not online;)

rutherford said...

Let's not forget the IFA have previous history in attempting to censor fans opinion - see George Jones decibel-smashing 'music' volume during previous anti-Maze protests. Despicable to be honest.

Worrying that Wilson appears to be acting apologist for the IFA in this instance. I thought he was one of the smarter ones.

The IFA need to begin to understand that it's NI fans who are its paymasters. Good article Owen.